Archive for November 2012

November 12, 2012

Waiting for POW captured by Taliban in 2009


By Kristina Wong, The Washington Times

Monday, November 12, 2012 – An empty chair on display at a Veterans Day ceremony in Twin Falls, Idaho, on Monday symbolized the costs military families face when loved ones have been killed or declared missing in action. The chair represented Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 26, the sole U.S. prisoner of the war in Afghanistan. A native of Sun Valley, Idaho, Sgt. Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban in 2009 while serving as an infantryman. In exchange for his freedom, the Taliban have demanded $1 million and the release of Taliban militants at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Earlier this year, U.S. officials and Taliban representatives were reported widely to have been in discussions to swap prisoners, but the effort was shelved. Sgt. Bergdahl also attempted to escape but was recaptured. A source close to his parents, Bob and Jani Bergdahl, said they are thankful to know he is alive and are waiting to hear from the White House about what officials expect to do to free him. The source, who requested anonymity because of the political sensitivity of the matter, said the family has been in a “giant waiting game, like so many active-duty family members.”

It was “unbearable” for them that the Afghan War was not a bigger part of the presidential election, the source said. “It’s hard to bear. This is the price that is paid by a nation that goes to war,” the source said. “[They wonder] what is our policy? What is our strategy? What’s the timetable? [They] feel kind of abandoned by the public and by a lot of what goes on in Washington.” Artie Muller, founder and executive director of Rolling Thunder, which promotes full accountability for prisoners of war and troops missing in action, accused the government of doing too little to recover Sgt. Bergdahl and three missing contractors from the Afghanistan War. “They released some of the prisoners that we have in Guantanamo Bay and gave them back. Well, why did we give them back if you’re not giving our guy back?” he argued.

Over the past decade, the Defense Department has begun to increase the success of recovering remains of fallen service members thanks to improving DNA identification technology, but Mr. Muller said the Pentagon must do more to find the ones who still might be alive. “Some of them were still left behind. Well, did they die? Are they still being held?” Mr. Muller asked. More than 83,000 Americans have been declared missing from World Wars I and II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. James Gregory said, “Our hearts go out to the Bergdahl family and friends. “We will not discuss the detail of our efforts, but there should be no doubt that we work every day — using all our military, intelligence and diplomatic tools — to try to get Sgt. Bergdahl returned home safely.”

© Copyright 2012 The Washington Times, LLC.

November 11, 2012

History of Veterans Day

World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” – officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France.

Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France, wait for the end of hostilities. This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on November 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m. The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.

An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.” Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

Later that same year, on October 8th, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first “Veterans Day Proclamation” which stated: “In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans’ organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible.”

President Eisenhower signing HR7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

President Eisenhower signing HR7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day. From left: Alvin J. King, Wayne Richards, Arthur J. Connell, John T. Nation, Edward Rees, Richard L. Trombla, Howard W. Watts. On that same day, President Eisenhower sent a letter to the Honorable Harvey V. Higley, Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), designating him as Chairman of the Veterans Day National Committee.

In 1958, the White House advised VA’s General Counsel that the 1954 designation of the VA Administrator as Chairman of the Veterans Day National Committee applied to all subsequent VA Administrators. Since March 1989 when VA was elevated to a cabinet level department, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs has served as the committee’s chairman.

The Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) was signed on June 28, 1968, and was intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates.

The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971. It was quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens, and so on September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans service organizations and the American people.

Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

November 5, 2012

New York National Guard Troops Aid Neighbors

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
National Guard Bureau

NEW YORK, Nov. 5, 2012 – Members of the New York National Guard distributed critically needed fuel throughout the New York City area as residents and local authorities continue with cleanup and recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy slammed the East Coast. The fuel was provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and distributed at National Guard armories in Staten Island, Queens and Brooklyn as a response to gas stations and other infrastructure being shut down as a result of Sandy.

“It’s a great mission for the National Guard in that it’s a humanitarian mission,” said Air Force Capt. Ryan Abbott, with the New York Air National Guard’s 152nd Air Operations Group, who oversaw distribution operations at the Staten Island Armory. “We’re out there with the populace and letting them know that the Guard is here to take care of you.” Fuel distribution isn’t the only mission that Abbott and those at the armory have been taking on.

“We just had one of our patrols come back and they were just in one of the worst-hit areas of Staten Island helping to distribute food, water, some much needed clothing and blankets, especially because the weather is getting much colder out here,” Abbott said.

Abbott said missions like this led him to enlist in the Air Guard. This is one of the reasons why I joined the Guard and I didn’t go on active duty,” he said. “I wanted to be part of that humanitarian mission for my state when I was called upon, and for me this is the first time in a long time that I’ve gotten to do that.”

Abbott said local residents’ reception has been overwhelming. “The feedback we’re getting from the community is great,” he said. “There has been such a huge outpouring of support for us, the Guard. A lot of people try and bring us items and help us out, where in turn we’re here to help them. It’s much appreciated that they offer it to us, but we in turn take it and distribute it among everybody else in the community.”

Abbott said he’s seen consistent support throughout the community “Our guys that have been on patrol have seen houses where the watermark is on the second floor of the outside of the house,” he noted. “We go to approach the people in the house to see how they’re doing and if they need anything, and those people are more concerned about the people lower down on the island than they are.”

Abbott said the mission comes back to simply helping the community. “A lot of us that joined the Guard, we joined to take care of those at home — and New York is home,” he said. “We’re here taking care of our folks.”

November 1, 2012

DOD Launches ‘Airlift Event’ to Support Sandy Relief

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 1, 2012 – The Defense Department launched “a significant airlift event” to quickly get power restoration equipment to New York, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency asked DOD to airlift equipment from Southern California to New York, he said. The Air Mobility Command responded and some of the needed equipment is already in the air. “Aircraft and crews from 12 active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve bases across the nation are rotating through March Air Reserve Base in Southern California, where they will pick up 10 civilian power experts, 637 short tons of supplies and equipment to support relief efforts on the East Coast,” Little said.

The personnel and equipment are from the Southern California Edison Utility Company and will arrive at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, N.Y., on 12 C-17 Globemasters and five C-5 Galaxy aircraft later this afternoon, Little said. The cargo includes 10 cherry picker trucks, four line trucks, a flat-bed digger, eight “trouble trucks” and a mobile command center, he said. There are also a number of support trucks, maintenance trucks and all the equipment needed to operate as soon as they roll off the planes, Little added.

Most of the crews manning the trucks arrived in New York via commercial air, he said. The Navy is moving three ships — the USS Wasp, the USS San Antonio and the USS Carter Hall — toward the Northeast, Little said. There has been no request for the capabilities of the ships, but DOD considers this a prudent move, to ensure the ships will be available if needed, he said. The military is also providing generators and pumping equipment to New York and New Jersey, Little said. The National Guard remains busy in response to recovery efforts throughout New York and New Jersey, he noted. “The New Jersey National Guard was very busy yesterday rescuing the people of Hoboken who are still stranded due to flooding,” Little said. “Throughout the state, the New Jersey National Guard has rescued more than 2,000 residents from flooded areas.”

In addition, the New York National Guard responded to Bellevue Hospital, where more than 700 patients needed to be evacuated, he said. “I can’t say enough about the selfless soldiers and airmen throughout the Northeast, and I’d like to commend FEMA and other government agencies for their response to this devastating natural disaster,” Little said.